Black Friday UK Retailer Meltdown

by | Sep 25, 2018 | Content

Black Friday is well and truly upon us. It can be categorically said that this has been the biggest hype of the event ever in the UK; Thanksgiving and in particular ‘Black Friday’ has taken our little island by storm.

And this hasn’t come out of the blue either. The interest has been growing through the media and word of mouth over a couple of years and especially in the last two weeks. So it may come as a surprise that many of our major retailers including Currys, John Lewis, Tesco and Argos are currently having an online meltdown.

Why are they so unprepared?

As this craze hits the UK, it’s currently 12pm and many leading UK retailers are having technical issues resulting in severe inconvenience to loyal consumers and a potential tremendous loss for their business. Websites are down due to poor planning and a possible panic at the sheer volume of traffic logging into the sites. However, this was to be expected and it can be avoided, or at least minimise significantly.

This American tradition brought to our shores is only bound to get worse, throughout the day as well as in years to come. Of course, everyone loves a bargain and retailers need to fuel our commercial desires so how can retailers avoid this massive blooper in the future?

And it isn’t just the sites simply not working. Currys waiting page is extremely unappealing with no signal to the potential consumers on alternative options to shop with a wait time of 37 MINUTES.

Adjust your PPC accordingly

These retailers are continuing to bid on keywords, although these ads showing are going straight to the temperamental site. Retailers are still paying for their ads to be shown even though their site is down.

Automated bidding software should be detecting if the sites are down and pausing the running campaigns. For those businesses that use external agencies, it is now time to review their contract to make sure that they are on the top of this basic procedures.

Online shopping has certainly been a force to be reckoned with in recent years with all businesses knowing how vital online stores are to their businesses.

Reports have shown manic crowds outside stores (some have been queuing since at least 6am in Oxford Circus and police were called in Manchester) with many more will be choosing to keep cosy indoors rather than brace the chill and rush.

Black Friday will be all over the news this evening and through the weekend, but the true cost of these retailers shortcomings in terms of online may never come to light. We’ll keep you posted. For now, we’re experiencing some technical difficulties…

Why is this happening and why sites they go down?

These high spikes in traffic are what crashes your site and the effects can be massively detrimental to your business.  The usual traffic flow of a website is gradual and consistent, yet when we have days like today, severe spikes can appear rendering your site unusable for a few hours. This has been the most extreme example in the UK for a while, with the exclusion of million trying to obtain Glastonbury tickets year after year.

There are two initial ways to prepare your website for a severe spike in traffic:

–          Prepare a lightweight version by excluding visually elements such as images, videos and Flash, and a high level of static page in comparison to dynamic.

–          Alter your responsive mobile site to be able to use for desktop/PC users as well.

Both extremely easy to apply, and there are even more too…

Reduce the number of unwanted requests to your infrastructure

CloudFlare allows you to block IP address individually or IPs from entire regions. If you don’t want or need traffic from certain IPs or regions, you can block them using your Threat Control panel. This is useful for sites who know where their visitors usually come from. For the example of Black Friday in the UK, excluding visitors from other countries on your UK site is essential.

Use a better Content Delivery Network (CDN)

What could have prevented this catastrophe is a CDN from Akamai, Amazon, Content Delivery Networks or one of the many other providers worldwide. It’s a cloud-based automatic scaling service designed to optimise the delivery of any content–most commonly software and video–to your customers in the most reliable fashion.

With a CDN in place, customers can access your site no matter how many visitors have the same idea at the same time. And they can quickly download your content whether they’re across town or halfway around the world.

How fast can a CDN be put into place?

With a good provider, once the terms are ironed out, turning it on can take just a few minutes. However, complicated applications can take a few days or weeks to configure. Give yourself at least one month to sort out what you need and whom you’ll use so you can make sure you’re getting a good deal.

Related reading…